SC to Hear Pleas Challenging CAA on December 6; Appoints Nodal Counsel to Coordinate, Compile Documents

Supreme Court Law Insider

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: October 31, 2022 at 19:08 IST

The petitions challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, were postponed by the Supreme Court until December 6, 2022. A bench of Chief Justice UU Lalit, Justices Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi heard the case.

The panel resolved to make the Indian Union Muslim League’s plea the lead matter.

The Court also selected two lawyers to serve as nodal counsels, ensuring that the compilations are completed before the next deadline.

“Given that there are numerous things predicting multiple issues, we believe that the current debate can be resolved if 2-3 topics are chosen as lead matters and convenience compilations are made well in advance.”

“Such a procedure will facilitate the conduct of the proceedings. We have been informed that the Indian Union Muslim League’s Writ Petition is finalised. Pallavi Pratap, an advocate, filed the petition. As a result, she and Mr. Kanu Agarawal are appointed as nodal counsels.”

The nodal counsels were urged to consider designating some other instances as lead matters based on geographical and religious classifications, among other considerations. Petitioners citing issues in Assam and the North East could be categorised separately.

The court also gave time for the states of Assam and Tripura to file their responses to the Union Government’s latest affidavit on North-Eastern concerns.

The Court heard almost 200 petitions contesting the CAA. Almost 50 petitions address concerns unique to Assam and other North-Eastern states.

Problems Mentioned in the Lead Petition

The Citizenship Act of 2019 changes the Citizenship Act of 1955 to relax the criteria for awarding citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) petition claims that, while they do not oppose the award of citizenship to migrants, they are outraged by religious discrimination and illegal classification. The Act’s exclusion of Muslims amounted to religious discrimination.

According to the appeal, the Act’s religious segregation is arbitrary and violates Article 14 as well as the core concept of India as a society that treats people of all religions equally.

The Indian Constitution recognises citizenship solely by birth, descent, or bona fide residence.

Religion is now a requirement for citizenship under the Act. The linkage of religion and citizenship runs counter to secularism, which is a fundamental tenet of the Constitution.

“The CA, Act 2019 expressly discriminates against Muslims. The Act offers the advantage to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians, but does not extend the same benefit to Muslims.”

“Since the CA, Act 2019 discriminates on the basis of an individual’s fundamental and inherent trait, namely religion, it cannot establish a legitimate categorization based on discernible differences”, the petition claimed.

The petition further claims that the criteria used to identify nations and categories of people are not applied consistently. In this regard, the petition highlights the absence of Myanmar and the inclusion of Afghanistan (which was not a part of British India and has no history of split).

The argument also emphasises the exclusion of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and Rohingya Muslims.

The petition expresses concern that the Act may cause harm to Muslims during the anticipated nationwide implementation of the National Register of Citizens.

“With the passage of the Amendment Act and the nationwide implementation of the NRC, it will ensure that illegal migrants who are Muslims are prosecuted and that illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians are given the benefit of naturalisation as an Indian Citizen,” the petition stated.

Response of the Centre

The Centre claimed in an affidavit that the CAA did not infringe on any existing rights that may have existed before to the amendment’s implementation, and that it also did not seek to undermine any of the legal, democratic, or secular rights of Indian citizens.

It further claimed that the existing procedure for getting Indian citizenship by foreigners from any nation was unaffected by the CAA and remained unchanged, and that legal migration from any place in the globe, including the three designated countries, remained acceptable.

The Centre further argued that the CAA was only a limited legislative action with limited application that had no effect on existing legal rights or citizenship regimes [lying outside the jurisdiction of specialised measure] in any way.

It went on to say that the topic of citizenship eligibility and conferment, as well as associated concerns, was under the purview of the competent Legislature’s plenary session.

“By the very nature of the question of citizenship and related issues, the aforementioned subject matter may not be within the scope of judicial review and may not be justiciable,” the Centre stated.

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